Armistice & Shalom
They came from all over the world; heads of state, dignitaries and veterans from later wars - warriors called up long after the “war to end all wars” wrapped up. The images were feted on newsfeeds. With the Arc du Triumph looming questioningly in the background, the French President spoke to a crowd swathed in countless layers of security,
“I know there are old demons coming back to the surface. They are ready to wreak chaos and death.”
Indeed, they’ve never sunk too far beneath the surface, no matter how much we convinced ourselves the waters were safe.
Armistice, “an agreement made by opposing sides in a war to stop fighting for a certain time; a truce.” For a certain time. Not forever, not by a long shot. It’s the 100th anniversary of that armistice, although the break in the fighting didn’t quite make it to twenty.
While it’s good and right to honor those who fought, those who died, we need not deceive ourselves that armistices last.
Armistice is not the same as Shalom.
Armistice is merely the absence of conflict, fleeting, Shalom is the presence of wholeness, completeness and is eternal. It’s a paradox though, we can experience a complete armistice but it won’t last, while we’ve only tasted Shalom but it stays with us forever.
We long for shalom but settle for armistice, even convincing ourselves that this time it will surely hold. Rabbi Abraham Heschel wrote “mundus vult decipi' — the world wants to be deceived. To live without deception presupposes standards beyond the reach of most people whose existence is largely shaped by compromise, evasion and mutual accommodation. Could they face their weakness, their vanity and selfishness, without a mask?”
Shalom allows us to take off the masks, to face the demons and totally defeat them, not just sign a temporary truce. Armistice as an end gives the false impression of lasting peace. Armistices are always temporary, even if they last 20,
100 years, or 1000 years. The old demons are always there.
Shalom is eternal. Shalom is what we begin to truly work for when we recognize our masks and begin to despise them. Masks of posturing, vanity, bullying, fear and fear mongering, ignorance, arrogance.
Another armistice isn’t the answer, we need shalom. We are dying from the lack of it. This shalom is both the promise and gift of God. It’s not bought or earned, wagered for or won, but gifted. It doesn’t come from the taking up of arms, but the laying down of them, never again to be taken up. “They will beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nations will not take up the sword against other nations, and they will no longer train for war.”
Grace and peace y’all.